Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2019

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Alien Nosejob - HC45 7″ EP (Iron Lung)
In 2019, Iron Lung continued to kill it with a steady stream of left-field weirdness, power violence, pedigreed punk, and truly raging hardcore, as showcased on this ripping EP. While the vinyl release won’t be available until sometime in early 2020, it’s been tearing up Bandcamp and streaming portals with its amped version of bedroom weirdo punk that could hang with the other stars of that realm, like Janitor Scum, Erik Nervous, Neo Neos, CCTV, etc. It appears that this is a departure from the typical Nosejob sound, but I’m really hoping for a HCLP full-length release as HC45 definitely leaves you craving more.

 

Bummer - Thanks for Nothing 7″ EP (Learning Curve)
Following up last year’s Holy Terror album, KC’s loudest riff mammoths serve up 2 new tracks of weighty grunge sludge, plus a couple classic digital tracks that haven’t been committed to vinyl until now, including an epic cover of Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” that honors that ’90s staple of disenfranchised youths with a few extra tons of electrified spite and volume. There seems to be a moment of ’90s noise rock rumbling up from the fringes of the metal and hardcore scenes with Bummer being one of the best examples of bands revitalizing the core elements of volume, distortion, and force into something compelling and significant in the second decade of the new millennium.

 

Crisis Man - The Myth of Moderation 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
Starting with the bouncing stomp of the title track, this Oakland wrecking crew reignites the wild spirit of hardcore with five tracks of fiery fury, complete with guitar riffs that twist themselves inside out from their own inertia and scatter unexpectedly as barking vocals and tempo shifts prod the listener from complacency. They’ve mastered the hardcore technique of building and releasing tension without relying on cliched chugga-chug breakdowns, while also managing to add a righteous swagger to their breathtaking mess. The closing track “Superlunary” wraps it all up with a defiant pounder of a riff that keeps that wild spirit focused and alive.

 

Homeless Cadaver - Fat Skeleton 7″ (Iron Lung)
Coming out of the gate in early 2019 came this total rager from Iron Lung’s Systemic Surgery series, which apparently means that it’s limited to 200 and includes a fancy diecut and risograph  print, so don’t snooze on a copy or be happy streaming it. The A-side serves up punchy, staccato riffs with just enough slop around the edges to keep the ugliness dripping wet, while a rabid psycho with an Ausmutants flair shouts you down between howling synth spasms. The flipside “Art. Eat It.” downshifts into a churning stew of repetitive guitar fuzz decorated with harsh electronic effects and punishing vocals, all serving as an earworm to relentlessly remind you of the aural and psychic trauma this 7″ slab of plastic (or digital stream) has just inflicted upon you.

 

Loose Nukes - Behind the Screen 7″ EP (Beach Impediment)
Holy shit, this one ripped my head off the first time I heard it and continues to kick it splattering blood and grey matter down the street. Six raging tracks of fierce hardcore punk played at breakneck speed, only letting up on the second-to-last track “Rizzo’s Dead” for a queasy Rudimentary Peni-playing-Flipper downer riff before exploding into the last track “I Could’ve Been A Killer” which sounds like a Poison Idea 45 played at 78rpm. Ridiculously relentless. Remarkably raging. What’s not to love?

 

Mitraille - Hoopschroot 7″ EP (Belly Button)
As mentioned in this post, Belgium’s Mitraille’s first vinyl release wreaks havoc on the garage punk form, energizing it in ways that defy convention and keep the listener throttled to the last, ripping note. A stellar vinyl debut that’s not to be missed.

 

Rainbow Grave - No You 12″ EP (God Unknown)
OK, so Discogs lists this as an LP as do the distros and even the label who released it, but I’m going to call it an EP since it’s got 6 songs and clocks in at 34 minutes. It is almost LP length, especially with a couple of tracks that churn past the 7 minute mark, and it certainly carries the heavy sonic weight of an LP with a relentless pounding and contempt, but I still want to call it an EP if it doesn’t eclipse 40 minutes. Regardless, this beast is built upon the throne of Flipper’s darkest dirges, Drunk With Guns’ ugliest ugliness and the harrowing menace of the Brainbombs — a particularly effective approach to sonic annihilation that becomes especially severe as blasts of howling saxophone penetrate the distorted din. One-dimensional hate vibes here with very few frills and very oppressive riffing and bombast. It’s a beautiful thing to succumb to.

 

Scorn - Feather 12″ EP (Ohm Resistance)
After eight years of silence, Mick Harris‘ Scorn project reignited in 2019 with this shimmering slab of black, black wax, thumping deep dark bass on three distinct versions of the title track plus closer “Whatever Is Touched Turns.” Priming the world for a new full-length release Cafe More, this 4 dose set makes an excellent quick hit of atmospheric space dub, full of echoey effects and slowly shifting tectonic subwoofer slides that requires half the downtime of the 48 minute album. Contemporary Scorn takes a starkly minimalistic approach compared to lush classics like Logghi Barogghi, but only in form and not atmosphere, as each track pulls the listener into a dense but simplified domain that’s uniquely Scorn and uniquely breathtaking.

 

 

 

Skull Practitioners - Death Buy 12″ EP (In The Red)
As the first few seconds of  the first track “Death Buy” fade in with a wicked groove, a heavy vibe is set and exploited for genuine guitar freakouts and psychedelic delights that might be the feedback of ethereal brainwaves Simply Saucer launched into the universe over 40 years ago. “Grey No More” shifts things in high gear and powers along an MC5 motorway through a mountain of guitar roar. “The Beacon” finishes off the A-side with another stomper complete with sliding guitar flourishes and a feverishly-paced Gun Club seediness. “Miami,” the lone track on the flipside, stretches another heavy dub-flavored groove that effortlessly chugs past the 10+ minute mark before ending with a harsh lock groove that’ll leave you salivating for the LP that’s in the works.

 

Tokeback Mountain - Tokeback Mountain Demo (Self Released)
In case you were unaware, at any given time the quaint college town of Lawrence, Kansas, is home to dozens of bands well worth your attention. In 2019 this band of weirdos is the cream of the crop, shredding your psyche and shaking your shitter with seven tracks of nutty guitar-drum-psycho noise rock. Like Bunnybrains on amphetamines, the ramshackle genius of songs like “Bong Rip Yr Dick Off” and “HyperMart,” an ode to a long defunct KC area Wal-Mart experiment in retail monstrosity, or the queasy throbs of “Banquet” prove to be some of the finer moments in outsider rock in 2019.

Best Albums of 2019

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

Acrylics - Sinking In (Iron Lung)
After rounds of small doses in the form of demo tapes and 7″ releases, Santa Rosa’s (and probably California’s… and maybe even the United States’) sharpest hardcore punks released their first official full length in 2019. And while many young, raging bands can’t quite manage to extend the fury of their short-form ragers to proper album length, I’m happy to report that Acrylics not only fill two full sides of an LP with killer, grade-A punk, they do it in a way that leaves you wanting more. So even though this is the first Acrylics release with songs that surpass the 4 minute mark, none of the tracks on Sinking In drag or feel like filler, including a pair of atmospheric interlude tracks. Instead, Acrylics’ warped vision of what hardcore could be, not what it was, burns bright and cements their place as one of the most vital punk bands of 2019.

 

Andy Human & The Reptoids - Psychic Sidekick (Total Punk)
The slow trickle of killer 45s from Andy Human & The Reptoids after their 2015 debut album spurred even higher expectation and really built anticipation for this, their sophomore album. Coming out at the beginning of 2019 it easily eclipsed most of the “best of 2018″ hyped bands that already started sounding stale a few weeks into the new year, and kept smoking synapses through the heat of summer and on through the end of the year. Destined to be a classic, this might just be the brightest jewel in the impossibly dense resume of Andy Human, whose time and efforts in an obscene quantity of excellent bands such as Jackson Politick, The Beatniks, The World, The Cuts, The Time Flys, and probably a few dozen others yet to be exposed, has resulted in a fully realized work of art that sounds great at first listen and gets even better over time. It’s instantly catchy, yet hardly conventional as songs and lyrics careen sideways and get slathered in layers of mystically weird texture and dimension. Not only one of the best from 2019, but surely one of the best of the decade.

 

Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent)
As one of a handful of metal releases that stood high (cough) above the metal multitudes, Denver’s Blood Incantation have paid their dues in the form of a stream of steadily solid, interesting twists of the death metal formula. From their early demos and especially with their first Dark Descent releases Interdimensional Extinction and Starspawn, this Denver quartet has adapted an astrological bent to the technical death metal spectrum. As incongruous as icy cold, alien themes are to the very human blood and guts and gore that 99.9% of death metal bands gurgle out, Blood Incantation somehow makes it work by layering in psychedelic flourishes, commanding song structures, and studio wizardry to the very recognizable staples of the genre. As Voivod’s sci-fi aesthetic and off-kilter keys made them a unique specimen in the thrash metal world, Blood Incantation are charting a new course that adds layers and complexity to death metal without getting too proggy, or worse, mired in cliché.

 

Dan Melchior Band - Negative Freedom (In The Red)
Over the last two decades, the name Dan Melchior has merited a seal of quality whenever attached to a musical artifact. From early Billy Childish-influenced garage stompers through the bad vibes of the Broke Revue or Dan Melchior und Das Menace’s essential catalog, all the way through more experimental solo records like Assemblage Blues, he’s covered a lot of ground within the generally limited garage rock set. Every release is immediately identifiable as a Melchior product, while also tweaking any known formulas or confidently pushing the envelope into inventive new terrain. Negative Freedom in particular showcases one of his strongest amalgams of expert songcraft and inventive sonic textures, with guitar sounds being mutated and processed into strange new shapes and augmented with masterfully dispensed analog synth buzz and fuzz. Sample the echoplexed beat of “One Dollar” and its wild guitar spasms or the downer drone of “They Insulted Me in Mojo” seasoned with decades of sarcasm and spite and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more worthy slab of wax to throw your expendable or non-expendable income at.

 

Dead Normal - There Is Nothing Left but the Enjoyment of Senseless Destruction (Harbinger Sound)
Along with Rainbow Grave’s No You, this welcome blast of negativity from Barcelona’s most snarling noiseniks is an appropriate response to madness bubbling over in 2019. And while it could be argued that Dead Normal draw heavily from the soundwell of 1980s Whitehouse, it can also be said that they bring a thrilling, albeit slightly more accessible take, on power electronics and screaming lunatic vocals. In fact, it seems mighty fucking appropriate to level this degree of scorn towards society versus the personal S&M of 1980s fetish taboo of prime Whitehouse, as Dead Normal’s split male/female shouts eviscerate humanity’s weaker tendencies and bring reckoning to the state of the species in 2019. And where subtle rhythms could be found in Whitehouse’s squall, Dead Normal bring a stronger, martial pulse to the aktion, bludgeoning the chance of this being an exercise in mimicry or mediocrity.

 

Full of Hell - Weeping Choir (Relapse)
Ever pushing the boundaries of hardcore, punk, metal, noise/experimental whatever “music,” Full of Hell once again exceed their previous output by rescrambling whatever faint templates any genre may contain and obliterating the listener with a level of extremity that only a time like 2019 could bring. At first listen it’s too much to take in and truly requires a few spins before it even makes a lick of sense, and when a picture does finally come into focus, it quickly shifts into volatile territory again. I feel my age listening to Weeping Choir, as there are many moments where it ventures down annoying avenues, like the machine gun-esque blasts that lead from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” into and out of “Aria of Jeweled Tears” but you have to appreciate the offense of the severity and the overall reach of what Full of Hell does. The range of aural assault from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” to the epic churn of  “Armory of Obsidian Glass” as it nears 7 minute mark to the Halo-style pound of “Angels Gather Here” or the sax-enhanced freakout in the middle of “Ygramul the Many,” it all adds up to help define Weeping Choir as a truly unique listen.

 

Hash Redactor - Drecksound (Goner)
The promise of Hash Redactor’s excellent 2017 demo comes to full fruition on their debut LP, rising to the top of Goner Record’s remarkably strong 2019 release pile. Mixing the tense churn and burn guitar punk of Memphis’ Ex-Cult and the nerve of Nots, featuring member of both bands, Drecksound brings a ringing American twist to the gnarled sort of Australian growl that birthed the likes of bands like feedtime and Grong Grong. But in addition to the thick, knuckle-dragging driving bass lines and guttural vocals of the Aussie version of the sonic virus, Hash Redactor injects brilliant twin guitar interplay that sounds like a woozy Delta version of Marquee Moon played with steady, young hands. Along with The Intelligence and Possible Humans’ offerings in 2019, Drecksound was in heavy rotation and continues to spin often at the NFZ compound.

 

The Intelligence - Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting Inc)
Over the span of 15 years worth of essential LPs, EPs, and singles, not to mention the stellar solo record Moonlight Over Bakersfield, Lars Finberg’s prolific output and contributions to other bands in the garage punk gamut have put him in league with likeminded overachievers like John Dwyer, Jay Reatard, and Ty Segall. All are driven to crank out music at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and even though Sir Finberg’s name hasn’t grabbed the rapt critical attention his peers receive, his output in my opinion is of an even higher quality as it continues to earn longer stints on my turntable than nearly any other. Layered with an increasingly diverse palette of sound and exceptional wit (the album title alone is one of the best of the year) his group The Intelligence continues to offer up some of the most satisfyingly scrappy garage sonic poetry committed to vinyl. Like album cover’s fake marked down 50¢ price tag, the latest offering from The Intelligence is the hidden, unknown gem in the thriftstore bin that’s absurdly more valuable than the public at large knows.

 

Oceans of the Moon - Oceans of the Moon (Castleface)
To fill that fizzling void that once throbbed with the vibrations of Six Finger Satellite, stemming from the nucleus of Helios Creed and its primitive Chrome origins, Castleface thrusts forth a malformed cyberorganism called Oceans of the Moon, which somehow cycles out the initial heat of its predecessors for a chilly, calculated future shock. Sharp, contained guitar clips cut sparse marks in time as the motorik beat throbs on, with tracks like “I’m On a Roll” sounding something like a Wire LP played at 16rpm. Executed by Providence mutant rock all-stars with a rap sheet that includes La Machine, The Chinese Stars, and Landed and more, Oceans of the Moon delivers the freakified soundtrack for your cyber armageddon post party.

 

Possible Humans - Everybody Split (Trouble In Mind)
A description of Possible Humans’ sound probably wouldn’t get me excited enough to give it much playtime among the giant piles and raging streams of music that offer much more compelling reasons to earn some time between your earholes, but fuckin’ A, this album has completely saturated and colored 2019. Maybe it’s because they’re Aussies and Australia has been churning out a ridiculous amount of quality groups lately, but I still can’t explain why a fairly conventional guitar-based indie rock band can sound as essential as this debut LP. While comparisons to Guided By Voices and Wire are somewhat accurate, the ebb and flow of their songs lean more towards GBV, but with a twinge of dejected collegiate rock like For Against or the psychedelic twist of Radar Eyes. Whatever the reason, it’s earned a lot of spins on the NFZ turntable in 2019 and will likely earn many more.

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Typically I like to keep these to a tight list of 10. It feels like lazy editing, but what the heck, it’s been a rough year and these excellent releases also helped keep toes tapping and pulses pounding…

Black BeachTapeworm (DSPS)
Boy HarsherCareful (Nude Club)
ExhumedHorror (Relapse)
Foster CareEl Abuso (Total Punk)
The Natural Man Band – Living in a Chemical World With… (Lumpy)
Nots3 (Goner)
ObsessióObsessió (La Vide Es Un Mus)
POW!Shift (Castleface)
RaktaFalha Comum (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Tomb MoldPlanetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)

Best Reissues of 2018

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

The Carbonas

The Carbonas - Your Moral Superiors: Singles and Rarities 2xLP (Goner)
For whatever reason The Carbonas never quite clicked for me despite many attempts and many recommendations from highly trusted sources. They always seemed a bit too conventional during their time but I’ve been slowly backing into their back catalog, mostly on account of band member G.G. King’s first rate output since The Carbonas ended. And while I still lean a bit towards the boundless creative calisthenics of G.G. King’s oeuvre, it’s hard to deny the righteousness of the 37 snotty razor-sharp punk rock bangers by The Carbonas collected on these two slabs ‘o vinyl. Cheers to the Goner label for delivering the the massive payload necessary to finally convert my dumb ass into being a fan.

 

Chandra
Chandra
 - Transportation LP (Telephone Explosion)
Toronto record label Telephone Explosion worked its way into NFZ’s heart through a consistently solid lineup of garage punk’s finest, but recently the sound of the label has mutated into some interesting new directions. In particular, the label has released some really intriguing reissues from artists like Bruce Haack, Steve Roach, Melodic Energy Commission, Fist of Facts, and this gem from 1980, Chandra’s Transportation. Suspicions about the novelty of a 12-year old girl fronting a post-punkish new wave group in the 1980s New York club scene are immediately tabled as the tensely-wound lead track “Opposite” stomps with the righteous thump of ESG, the loose energy of The Fall’s “three R’s” of rock n roll (repetition, repetition, repetition), and the Slits’ dub-fused punk punch. It sounds fresh by today’s standards and even has a bit of a no wave edge with clashing, discordant keyboards and violin that are guaranteed to repel normals and delight weirdos.

 

Cows
Cows
Effete and Impudent Snobs (Amphetamine Reptile)
AmRep’s boutique reissues continue to mine noisy gold from their back catalog, this time resurrecting one of the Cows’ more overlooked records. While every Cows record is worthy of your attention, I’ve always thought this one has a slightly different vibe than the rest of their discography. To me, Effete always felt grimier and more akin to the dingy bludgeoning of Drunks with Guns than the drunken warble of their earlier records or the punchy skronk of their later, more widely known classics like Peacetika and Cunning Stunts. It’s bleak and relentless, caked in noise, almost like an R-rated version of the Brainbombs. Granted, this is still the Cows as evidenced by the stomping old gold classic track “Cartoon Corral”, a song propagated by the first Dope, Guns, and Fucking Up Your Video Deck compilation with a doublespeed oompa oompa wobble kinda like the Butthole Surfers playing a demented polka. A couple other tracks kick up the pace a bit too, but overall, the pace is lumbering and queasy, and a bit gnarlier than their other records. Recommended!

 

ESG
ESG
Come Away with ESG LP (Fire)
Along with the Chandra reissue and Superior Viaduct’s Liquid Liquid reissues a couple years back, the minimalist NYC beat party never has to end. It’s shocking how badass and fresh this 1983 LP still sounds after 35 years. It’s a stone cold classic that defies genre, slipping somewhere in the space between new wave, hip-hop, post-punk. And even though 98% of Record Store Day releases tend to be utter wastes of oil (Sugar Ray on vinyl anyone? Anyone?) causing record dorks to convulse with vulgar spasms of consumerism, it’s essential reissues like this that almost justify the whole lurid affair.

 

The Fall
The Fall
The Rough Trade Singles (Superior Viaduct)
Of the hundreds of releases from The Fall, some of their (specifically Mark E. Smith, R.I.P.) finest moments were captured on wax during their first stint on the Rough Trade label, four of which are collected here. These pillars of postpunk progeny have been reissued in many formats over the 40 years since their initial run, including 7″ box sets and expansive double CD collections of these four singles and a grab bag of related recordings, but the fine team at Superior Viaduct have lovingly packaged these indispensable classics into the perfect format LP with great sound and liner notes by WFMU’s Brian Turner. We lost MES in 2018, but his music lives on.

 

Goblin "Profondo Rosso"
Goblin
Profondo Rosso Original Film Soundtrack (Death Waltz)
With nearly 50 reissues of this classic Argento movie soundtrack (aka Deep Red) and counting, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to experiencing this piece of wild ass Italian prog rock from 1975. This edition from Death Waltz however is one of the best-looking and best sounding editions you’ll hear, as it fully lures you into the era with enough slithering bass lines, percussive calculus, and analog synths to paint your world into the psychedelically-tinted world of psychotic killers and blood red splatter.

 

Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Into The Vortex (Amphetamine Reptile)
Happy to see another one of AmRep’s finest get a reissue of their killer sophomore album, even if it is a limited edition art version that sold out before it was even a twinkle in Tom Hazelmeyer’s eye. But hey, you can still get the CD version or stream it somewhere (gasp!) and revel in one of 1994′s best documents of midwestern noise rock. While Hammerhead’s debut Ethereal Killer still holds up and their raging swansong Duh, The Big City is worthy of your attention as well, Into The Vortex is the record where these Minnesota-via-North Dakota-via-Nowhere spazzoids kicked their amped up their aural attack to a whole new level with obscenely propulsive guttural buzz bombs that leveled every wanker wannabe “grunge” band and their impotent distortion pedals.

 

Punk 45: Approaching the Minimal with Spray Guns
Punk 45: Approaching the Minimal with Spray Guns
  – 5×7″ Box Set (Soul Jazz)
Also justifying Record Store Day 2018, maybe, was this exquisite collection of primo punk singles by the fine folks at Soul Jazz, whose expertly curated Punk 45 compilation series has revived tons of obscure and way out of print gems with copious liner notes, excessive titles and electrified mastering that pumps new life into these lost classics. This set collects full, faithful reproductions of 5 raging 45s, with a mix of large holes and small holes, accurate labels and even the origami-like sleeve from The Scabs 1979 EP. And despite being featured on two of the LP comps, Cleveland’s X____X’s A-side from their second release, “No Nonsense”, not included on the LPs or featured as the comp title like the B-side for this limited edition box set, is an essential chunk of mangled, tense weirdo punk that still sounds fresh 38 years later. Also included is the stomping Bizarros/Rubber City Rebels split 7″, the KBD-approved Hollywood Squares “Hillside Strangler” 7″ and the Flesh Eaters’ essential “Disintegration Nation” 7″ EP from 1978, all lovingly reproduced

 

Simply Saucer
Simply Saucer
Cyborgs Revisited 2xLP (In The Red)
Cult archival collection that’s been issued by at least four other record labels gets a deluxe double LP treatment from the always reliable In The Red label.  The 16 tracks here, 6 studio recordings from 1974 and an extended live set from 1975, demonstrate how completely out of time and ahead of their time they were. There’s a touch of punk snarl, some expansive VU-like jams (whose influence is captured in 2 additional bonus tracks, “Sweet Jane” and “I’m Waiting for The Man” with a download code) and a wacked out space vibe that falls somewhere between the trance state of Hawkwind and the jarring sci-fried buzz of Chrome.

 

Unwound
Unwound
Leaves Turn Inside You 2xLP (Numero Group)
In addition to a stellar box set reissue campaign from 2013–2016, the Numero Group saw fit to provide a deluxe reissue of Unwound’s 2001 swansong, Leaves Turn Inside You in 2018, a record which marked the end of one of the most dependably solid bands of the 1990s without much fanfare. At the time of its release, Unwound had evolved so much from their 1991 debut that most saw this double album simply as the next step of the band’s forward thinking approach to post/noise/wave/indie/core/whatever/etc, rather than the final transmission of a group whose 10 years of constant touring, evolution and reach were clearly taken for granted. While Unwound seemed to be a known quantity in 2001, Leaves proved to be an elusive beast that could be identified as Unwound, but an alien form of Unwound that had evolved into a hard-to-pin genre in a league all of its own. Kudos to Numero Group for resurrecting this monumental document.

 

Vector Command
Vector Command
System 3 LP (Hozac)
System 3 is a previously unreleased archival album by two members of Crime that taps into a sci-fi strain of chilly electro postpunk orbiting in the same stratosphere as early Chrome. While not as cut-up and revolutionary as Chrome, Vector Command certainly stands on its own as a noteworthy otherworldly demonstration of punk’s wide-open possibilities in 1983 as members of one of U.S. punk’s earliest groups (Crime’s Hot Wire My Heart 7″ released in 1976) could make a departure this dramatic from the codification of the genre in the early ’80s. Deviating from the fiery stomp Crime was known for, Vector Command took a detached, robotic approach that coils like mildly-stimulating electrodes through the cerebellum with seductive, analog electronic buzz and thump.

Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2018

Monday, January 14th, 2019


Brutal Birthday
Brutal Birthday
 - Commotion 7″ (Total Punk)
You can always rely on Total Punk to dredge up the ugliest punk from around the globe and spew it forth upon the world in bite-sized 7″ chunks. 2018 brought one of the gnarliest yet in the form of Italy’s Brutal Birthday, who pound out 3 simplistic, noise-addled hate ditties that are more fun than Brainbombs, livelier than Drunks With Guns, and nearly as hideous as Flipper.

Listen to Commotion on Bandcamp

 

Des Demonas
Des Demonas
 - Bay of Pigs 7″ (Slovenly)
Washington DC’s Des Demonas debut LP slipped past me last year but I’ve been catching up with this solid 45, their sole 2018 release. With two songs of churning punk soul accented by a Farfisa organ and a righteous swagger, this will spend some serious time on the turntable.

Listen to Bay of Pigs on Bandcamp

 

Ecstacy
Ecstasy
 - 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
The proper vinyl release of this Oakland band’s 2017 5-track digital demo is one of the tightest and punchiest hardcore records I heard in 2018 and it earned a number of spins on the turntable and iPod. With a go-for-the-throat sound that doesn’t let up, bleeding from track to track with propulsive riffs that have a Black Flag urgency played with the intensity of more recent hardcore groups like Kim Phuc. Hoping to hear more from this group in 2019.

Listen to Ecstasy on Bandcamp

 

Erik Nervous
Erik Nervous
 - Nervoloid 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
Another gem in the growing oeuvre of Hoosier state’s greatest bedroom punk star, Nervoloid pays proper homage to some of Devo’s deep deep deep cuts. The 5 tracks on this EP sound fantastic and fresh and hardly have a whiff of being over 40+ years of age. It’s a thing of beauty to see young blood putting some new life into proto synthpunk delirium.

Listen to Nervoloid on Bandcamp

 

Gumming
Gumming
 - Human Values Cassette (Not Normal)
Vicious, knuckle dragging noise from Richmond, Virginia that has the relentlessness and mentally unstable frame of mind necessary for making this plodding strain of hardcore punk essential. Human Values features 13 punishing tracks with painfully no-frills percussion, snaking buzzbomb bass and tense, warbling guitar that’s just a few clicks out of tune. Featuring many of the songs from their 2017 8-song debut recorded with fuller production values, shifting some of the treble to their pounding rhythm section.

Listen to Human Values on Bandcamp

 

Hologram
Hologram
 - Build Yourself Up So Many Times Only To Be Brought Down Again And Again 7″ EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The psychotic strain of hardcore that bubbled up in the 1980s midwest with Die Kreuzen and Spike in Vain has few contemporary equivalents in 2018, even though those bands get cross referenced to many current groups. Truth is, many of them don’t have the creative what-the-fuck fire that Hologram has demonstrated on this 5-song ripper. It’s creative, confusing and full of unexpected contortions, but doesn’t trade in any of those qualities at the sacrifice of velocity and fury.

Listen to Build Yourself Up So Many Times Only To Be Brought Down Again And Again on Bandcamp

 

Lithics
Lithics
 - Of You, Photograph 7″ (Thrilling Living)
In addition to their cruicial sophomore LP, Mating Surfaces, Portland’s Lithics bestowed 2 more essential tracks of their austere angular postpunk on this 45. They continue to fine tune their distinct style with a detached yet catchy sound that proves the strength in a “less is more” approach that makes the most of perfectly executed, cleverly sparse songs. Mandatory listening along with their other releases.

Listen to Of, Photograph on Bandcamp

 

Natural Man & The Flamin' Hot Band
Natural Man & The Flamin’ Hot Band
 - 7″ EP (Neck Chop)
Channeling the spastic energy of early punk skronk from The Deadbeats’ Dangerhouse 7″ through the modern rolling punk lens of Oakland’s The World, KC’s Natural Man polish up four tracks from their demo for your listening pleasure. And what a pleasure it is, full of hooky choruses and sax blurts wrapped around jerky rhythms that would make James Chance and The Contortions slip a disc.

Listen to Natural Man & The Flamin’ Hot Band on Bandcamp

 

The Shifters
The Shifters
 - Just Sat Down 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
The four tracks on Just Sat Down have a scrappier feel than the tracks on their Have a Cunning Plan LP, charming with instantly catchy Fall-esque tunes that lodge themselves into your brain as head bobbers and minor key earworms of the highest caliber.

Listen to Just Sat Down on Bandcamp

 

Witch Jail
Witch Jail
 - Music for Magic Moments demo (Self Released)
After a handful of digital singles, a single vinyl single, and a digital album, this KC band signs off with a demo tape capturing their best tracks yet. Always one of the more interesting groups around the garage punk scene, this 7-track swan song haunts their mutant rockabilly with a detached cool that grabs hold with the first track “Saucer Season Revisited” and never lets go. The non-digital cassette version also includes their first album Spellcasters Anonymous as a bonus. Snag one today and hope that Guy Slimey (aka Scary Manilow) has something else brewing for 2019 and beyond.

Listen to Music for Magic Moments on Bandcamp

Best Albums of 2018

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Blac Kolor

Blac Kolor - Awakenings (Hands Productions)
Like metal, it takes a bit of digging to find buried treasure in a music genre that’s as formulaic and derivative as industrial music in 2018. So when something interesting finally rises above the mediocre glut of Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails replicas, it’s time to open up your fleshy ear holes and let some sublime synthetic sounds drill their way straight into your psyche. After the solid 24U Vols. 1-3 digital singles in 2017, Germany’s finest dark ambient/industrial/techno DJ producer Hendrick Grothe assembles a thoroughly engaging listen with Awakenings that keeps an oppressive beat woven through waves of deep atmosphere texture. Sample the title track if you’re skeptical, as it literally connects that best elements of prime ’80s industrial music to a contemporary space, featuring grunting guest vocals by Front 242′s Jean-Luke De Meyer over a thunderously unrelenting pulse. You hear people complain about electronic music having no soul, but I’d argue that there’s soul at work here — just a really dark and fascinating form of it.

Listen to Awakenings on Spotify

 

Bummer

Bummer - Holy Terror (High Dive/Learning Curve)
Kansas City’s noise rock kings have been building their aural assault arsenal over the last 5 years, fine-tuning their high-velocity, gut-punching riffs with relentless, scientifically-engineered doses of volume and aggression. Holy Terror follows the cumulative trajectory of The Stooges through Black Flag through Unsane on the endless quest to perfect the most explosive riffs possible, crackling new life into an ugly form of rock that has long been plagued by half-assery and imitation.

Listen to Holy Terror on Bandcamp

 

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt - Brace Up! (Palilalia)
The cover photo on Brace Up! perfectly captures the crackling electric energy of this duo, whose telekinetically improvised guitar and drum explorations/explosions burn a 10,000MHz bolt of punk jazz straight through your liquified skull. Being familiar with Orcutt’s solo guitar work and the infamous Harry Pussy discography, which still manages to baffle after 25 years (!), it’s great to see that his high-voltage angle on guitar abuse has continued to mutate into wild new forms. Being unfamiliar with Chris Corsano, a quick Discogs search yields a slew of records due for investigation that feature his drumming talents, which on this album absolutely throw a spastic fireball right through all 12 tracks here, sounding something like Weasel Walter’s drum tracks being spliced and reassembled in a blender. Brace Up! is one of those records that exists well outside the margins of any particular genre yet connected to a handful just enough to not be ignored.

Listen to Brace Up! on Bandcamp

 

Constant Mongrel

Constant Mongrel - Living in Excellence (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The steady flow of killer slabs-0-vinyl coming out of Melbourne in the last few years shows no sign of waning, as The Shifters, Terry and the contagious spawn of related bands continues to hurl killer shit into the northern hemisphere to make the US/UK mass of musical mediocrity painfully apparent.  Constant Mongrel tread in similar sonic ground as Ozzie heavyweights Eddy Current Suppression Ring (whose Mikey Young mastered this excellent LP) but with a bit more snarl and swagger (and sax!), sounding something like Total Control covering a warped Dangerhouse 45 for an Adolescents tribute show. Living in Excellence offers instant hooks to pull you right into their universe, as well as unexpected flourishes executed to perfection to keep it interesting for years to come. A classic in the making.

Listen to Living in Excellence on Bandcamp

 

Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer Head Cage (Relapse)
It’d be hard to imagine spinning Pig Destroyer’s debut release, a split 7″ with Virginia screamos Orchid, way back in 1998 and see the progression the band would make from a standard-issue 3-piece to its current 5-piece lineup and the boundaries they’d breach within the genre’s perceived limitations. Like the Rush of grindcore (OK, with 5 now instead of 3) each player not only brings technical prowess and skill to the table, but a unique way of bringing it all together into something much more compelling than a bunch of showboat exercises in musical endurance. From J.R. Hayes’ and Blake Harrison’s vocal noise venom to John and Adam Jarvis’ full throttled, precision-tooled rhythm section and mastermind Scott Hull’s monsterous guitar tone, Head Cage covers more than the recommended daily requirement of heavy chug and blazing grind in a single 30 minute dose.

Listen to Head Cage on Bandcamp

 

Priors

Priors - New Pleasure (Slovenly)
Thanks for Slovenly for introducing Montreal’s Priors to the world with this blazing slab of highly concentrated, primitive garage punk. Despite the riffs being brutally efficient and unadorned, there’s a level of songwriting skill here that makes the most of these basic tools, providing a much more flavorful set of songs than your typical 1-2-3-GO punk. There’s some great synth accents sprinkled in, but it’s used to focus the songs and hardly the ordinary rally cry of a Screamers-worshipping band trying to be all synthpunk and new wavy in an ironically unironic way. It’s crafted perfectly for the vinyl format too as each side begins with a lightweight synthy intro track (“Life Pt. 1″ on side A and “Life Pt. 2″ on Side B) that gives way to an ass-smoking set of ripping punk rock. Bravo to Priors for becoming one of the best newcomers of 2018. It’s truly been a New Pleasure.

Listen to New Pleasures on Bandcamp

 

Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth - Deaths (Upset! The Rhythm)
If I weren’t so fickle, I’d probably declare this the best album of 2018, but I’m reluctant to declare anything yet despite my ongoing infatuation with this record. I remember hearing the first track “Percentages” for the first time, totally being pulled in and surprised to learn that it was Sauna Youth whom I’ve always dismissed as a bit of a novelty due to their moniker. After digging further into the album, each song, like effortless angular riff chopping of “In Flux” and the breakneck track “Problems” bolstered my respect for London’s most deadly trio. Taking the sharpest stomp of The Ex and somehow mutilating their skronk into something almost as catchy and memorable as the finest grade garage punk without losing any of the sting makes every track compelling and memorable. Even the spoken word piece “Swerve” is a dazzling example of their brilliance, pulling you into a nearly-lucid headspace while mangling our shared reality into something new and uncomfortable — and captivating. Long live Deaths.

Listen to Deaths on Bandcamp

 

The Shifters

The Shifters - Have a Cunning Plan (Trouble in Mind)
The Shifters join Constant Mongrel and barely edge out Terry’s also excellent I’m Terry to represent Melbourne’s next-level scene because Have a Cunning Plan proved to keep permanent residence on the NFZ turntable with 10-tracks of brilliant, ambling post punk that almost fills the void left by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith’s passing in January 2018. While less ragtag than their supreme demo and 7-inches, the cleaner production doesn’t smooth over this quartet’s scrappy charm and musical personality.

Listen to Have a Cunning Plan on Bandcamp

 

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Wasteland - (Rise)
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats is one of those bands that took a while to pull me in since the world truly doesn’t need another Sabbath-inspired doom metal band, unless, of course, it can be done this well. Ever since The Night Creeper made a convert out of me, I haven’t been able to get enough of Cambridge’s finest doom riders and their latest LP once again delivers the goods. A written explanation of what Wasteland and Uncle Acid’s previous records sound like can’t really explain how they’re so much more effective than the hundreds of thousands of bands that cover the same territory, but you might start with Kevin Starrs’ otherworldly vocal style and guitar work that gives the music a sinister edge that no other band, save Black Sabbath, has been able to achieve.

Listen to Wasteland on Spotify

 

Warm Drag

Warm Drag - Warm Drag (In The Red)
Being a fan of Paul Quattrone since his Pittsburgh days drumming in fantastic groups like Rot Shit, The Modey Lemon and Midnite Snake, it’s been great to see him become part of the latest version of the Oh Sees as well as engineering whatever genre-defying musical realm Warm Drag exists in. His talents beyond the drum seat are apparent here as he and Vashti Windish of Golden Triangle and The K-Holes conjure up loads of atmosphere that sounds something like Portishead and Tricky playing Suicide covers with Dick Dale in an impenetrable fog of bong smoke. Song titles like “Cave Crawl”, “Cruisin’ the Night”, and “Parasite Wreckage Dub” set the tone for the echoey headtrip Warm Drag charts out in ten smooth steps, along with spot-on production by Spacemen 3′s Sonic Boom. Without question the coolest album of 2018.

Listen to Warm Drag on Spotify

 

Best Albums of 2016

Monday, January 16th, 2017

The Blind Shake - Celebrate Your Worth
The Blind Shake
 - Celebrate Your Worth LP (Goner)
After 12 years of flexin’ midwest muscle, this Minnesota trio has honed their craft into something bigger than the punchy garage punk scene they’ve flourished in. Their jams are instantly craveable and continue to reap endless rewards with every listen. Each release has gotten better and better and this one is easily the best written and best recorded one yet.

 

Leather Towel - Leather Towel IV

Leather Towel - Leather Towel IV (Hozac)
Leather Towel takes postpunk’s angular, severe regimen and shocks the shit out of it with punk’s reckless energy and speed. Decoding the twin guitar attack as it circles over you with a reverbed bass throb and breakneck 1-2-1-2 hardcore beat will put the wheels-flying-off thrill of this record on your must have list in no time.

 

The Lithics - Borrowed Floor
Lithics
 - Borrowed Floors LP (Water Wing)
Ya might think in the year 2016 that there’s not much life left in angular postpunk tunes, but this Portland quartet, true to the hype they’ve garnered over the last year or so, deliver the goods on this 10 song platter. They’ve injected vibrancy into the form by punching out smart, tightly knit songs that crackle with an assertiveness that’s somehow both detached and impassioned. It’s an impressive debut with solid songwriting executed perfectly. Looking forward to hearing more from Lithics.

 

The Lumpy & The Dumpers - Huff My Sack
Lumpy & The Dumpers
 - Huff My Sack LP (Lumpy)
These St. Louis freaks are pretty much the jizzy cream of the punk crop. After a number of killer 45s and demos below their belts, like 2013′s “Sex Pit” and 2014′s “Gnats in the Pisser” — recently collected on their Collection LP for your listening pleasure — Lumpy & The Dumpers have proven that they can keep their crude punk damage fun in larger doses.

 

Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä
Oranssi Pazuzu
 - Värähtelijä 2xLP (20 Buck Spin)
This Finish metal band’s double album expands on their shamanistic sound often described as black metal psych, but that really doesn’t give a satisfactory description of what’s going on the 4 sides of this beast. Sure it’s massive and it does have a buzzing psychedelic squall, but the sounds here are warped and fucked beyond anything else you’ll hear in this world. Texturally, their sound is layered and dense in a way that’s wholly unique and intriguing, and even more remarkable is that the songwriting also pushes things a few steps further out with riffs that mutate to defy expectation and convention with every expansive minute. Give this monster your undivided attention and get ready for a journey you’ll not likely forget.

 

The PUFF! - Living in the Party Zone

PUFF! - Living in the Partyzone LP (Slovenly)
Pretty much knew after hearing PUFF!’s Identitätsverlust ‎7″ that anything this Berlin group put out would be required listening. And even though this album doesn’t match the explosive electrospasm of that brainstomping single, it does take their mutant synthpunk sound into so many twisted directions that your attention will not wander.

 

Terry - Terry HQ
Terry
 - Terry HQ LP (Upset the Rhythm)
Fuckin’ A Australia is cranking out the quality jams. I’ll admit that I was a little put off with my first spin of this record, since I was expecting something more in line with Total Control and UV Race with a little more grit and in-the-red volume. So after tabling my disdain for acoustic guitar (featured on just a few tracks) and the overall cleaner sound of Terry, I gave it another listen and soon realized that I was approaching it all in the wrong way. Now Terry HQ has had more listens than pretty much anything else this year. Its Breeders-by-way-of-The Fall sound is charming and plays well for pretty much any mood. It’s a patchwork of great ideas bringing life to staid rock elements with a level of creativity that few bands are brave or playful enough to explore.

 

The Tørsö - Sono Pronta a Morire
Tørsö
 - Sono Pronta a Morire LP (Sorry State)
Okay, so this technically came out Dec 2015, but for all intents and purposes this rager made big waves well into 2016 with ferocious hardcore played fast and hard as hell. There are plenty of D-beat hardcore groups out there plodding similar territory, but few are able to whip up the feral energy Tørsö has on all 11 tracks of their debut LP. Every song thoughtfully builds and explodes with enough power to level your local all-ages space and the gazillions of by-the-numbers hardcore bands unfit to share the bill.

 

Useless Eaters - Relaxing Death
Useless Eaters
 - Relaxing Death (Castleface)
You may remember at time when Jay Reatard was releasing a ridiculous amount of material. It was impossible to keep up with his prolific output and too easy to stop paying much attention. Fast forward past his sudden departure in 2010 and of course it became crystal clear that all those records he was cranking out year after year were all worthy of attention even if it seemed like overkill at the time they came out. I’ve taken that lesson to the equally prolific Seth Sutton and his flagship Useless Eaters band who continue to make instant classics ever since they started spitting out wild ass 7-inches in 2009. With increasing frequency the Eaters have sharpened their sonic attack and traded in the frantic garage fury of their earlier releases with a finely tuned machine that hooks you in and continues to hook deeper and deeper as every one of the 12 tracks on Relaxing Death wraps itself into your DNA.

 

Wet Ones
Wet Ones
 - Wet Ones LP (Black Gladiator)
Ensuring that punk still aims straight for the jugular, Kansas City’s finest lowlifes spat forth one of the nastiest piss-colored slabs of hate ever committed to wax with their self-titled debut. Merrily puking out gnarly punk in its basest, visceral form, the Wet Ones push the punk rock needle well past the point of accessibility/mediocrity into something so beautifully ugly one can’t help but to mainline it again and again and again…

 

Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2015

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Bummer - Spank 10

BummerSpank 10” EP (High Dive)

From the gimp cover art and band name, you pretty much know what you’re in for with this KC trio and that is lurching, noisy ass heavocity with a gnarly edge. Music in this vein doesn’t need many flourishes as it’s all in the execution, but Bummer does manage to stand out with a supremely tight rhythm section and riffs that shapeshift enough to keep things interesting and dangerous with unexpected twists and turns.

 

Creative Adult - Ring Around the Room 7
Creative Adult
Ring Around the Room 7” (Run For Cover)

A-side is a strung out noisegaze swirl with a fog of synth and feedback that refuses to leave your ringing ears, while the B-side comes in with a few massive riff punches on “Travel” and a dramatic end track “Motgu.” If their Dead Air 7” and Psychic Mess LP didn’t get your attention, give this one a few listens and you’ll be lulled into their darkwave cloud.

 

Sie Lieben Maschinen - June Gloom demo
Sie Lieben Maschinen
- June Gloom cassette (Haymaker)

This ex-Season to Risk duo has managed to mutate their former band’s noiserock foundation into a beautifully sci-fried punk space where bouncing bass lines, dancy beats, and perfectly chilled postpunk vocals that sound like Randy “Biscuits” Turner on ecstacy collide in the future world Chrome foresaw in Alien Soundtracks. More than a few moments on this unassuming little tape summon the greatness of Six Finger Satellite’s late ‘90s output with enough tension and thrust to knock your shitty speakers off the shelf. Plus they tastefully end out their 11 tracks with a well done, stylistically stamped cover of Public Image Limited’s song “Public Image.”

 

Leviathan - My War Decibel Flexi
Leviathan
- My War Flexi (Decibel Flexi Series)

Black Flag’s My War album was one of the most oppressively depressing records of its era, chock full of Rollins’ most self-loathing, hateful and crushing catharsis and Greg Ginn’s sickest guitar eviscerations, so of course, why not a black metal version of its breakneck title track? While this easily could’ve been a formless glop of typical trendoid black metal, this sacred song is in great hands with Wrest, who simultaneously strangles the original version as he whips the already hyperaggressive riff into a buzzing swirl. I hadn’t even bothered to notice the song title before I put this on for the first time, and when I realized what I was hearing it was as if the freight train called “My War” that had run me over in my teen years had somehow passed through time and ran my ass down once again. It’s the heaviest damn flexi you’ll ever hear.

 

Loop - Array 1 12
Loop
- Array 1 12” EP(ATP Recordings)

One of the highlights of 2014 was to see this late ‘80s juggernaut regroup for a series of North American shows, blowing eardrums and minds with their uniquely haunting space rock. When word of new material came out, it was hard to imagine what a nearly 30-year-old Loop might sound like and I’m happy to say that the four tracks presented here can stand up next to the 1990 masterpiece A Gilded Eternity with a dreamlike presence that easily submerges you in a blanket of psychedelic sound. This new formation does update Loop’s sound with a few ethereal ambient touches ala Robert Hampson’s post-Loop group Main, and other members weave in the multilayered rhythmic sound of Hair & Skin Trading Co. into the fabric of this release. I’m seriously hoping and looking forward to a second Array and more.

 

Nature Boys - Pissy Wind 7
Nature Boys
Pissy Wind 7” (Replay)

There are a number of punk bands in KC that’ve received more attention than this killer trio, but you won’t find a better mix of off-the-rails, tuneful ragers played at breakneck speed with sweaty energy. This latest release slays and shows that they aren’t mellowing out anytime soon.

 

Pampers - Right Tonight 7
Pampers
Right Tonight 7” EP (In The Red)

The weight and force of The Pamper’s jabbing riffs is so ridiculous and massive on this 7” that it somehow manages to be even more obnoxious than their early records. The 4 songs here are so focused and relentless that ya gotta wonder if they could carry this amount of energy over the length of an album, and judging from their amazing 2013 debut LP ya gotta admit these monsters probably could. Here’s hoping for a new LP!

 

Phantom Head - South of Heaven cassette
Phantom Head
- South of Heaven cassette (Self Released)

The Phantom Head cassette is full of downer dirges that occasionally bares its teeth with lumbering lowend guitar stabs and songs like “Do You Like This Life”, “Disconnect” and “Embrace the Beast.” The biliousness is much more severe here on hissing tape than on their early Bandcamp tracks. Fans of early Swans, Drunks with Guns, and the drone of Pissed Jeans Throbbing Organ 7” will find loner bliss between its two tiny, unstable reels.

 

Repairs - Decay/Cycle 7
Repairs
Decay / Cycle 7” (Hozac)

Hozac’s has a knack for stretching a bit outside the garage punk core they’re known for with some top shelf synth bands. Like Hozac’s 2013 7” from Italy’s Schonwald, this release from Australia’s Repairs is another buzzing electroblanket that deftly envelops the listener/victim into a cocoon of synthetic sound and lulls them further in with ghostly voice tracers. Imagine the inverse equation of Suicide covering Joy Division in the wettest dream scene of an adolescent Goth and you could almost explain what’s going on within the haunted grooves of this record.

 

Ufux - You Look Dark 7
Ufux
You Look Dark 7” (Jeth Row)

Ufux is the latest symptom of the sick strain of Chicago weirdpunk that can be traced back to the Functional Blackouts on through The Daily Void. This time the virus is a bit more cerebrally and aurally damaged in the vein of Drunks with Guns and Tractor Sex Fatality, dosed with a noisy neanderthal swagger that knocks back The Daily Void’s future shock a few millennia. Even though the theme song “Ufux” closes out the B-side at a fairly quick pace, the plodding tracks that precede it deliver the real meat.

Best Albums of 2015

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Andy Human and the Reptoids
Andy Human and the Reptoids - Andy Human and the Reptoids (S-S)

No other album had the ability to get under your skin quite like this debut from the Bay Area’s finest export. With a timeless sound that draws inspiration from, but doesn’t directly ape the gurgling glops of glam and protopunk (Brian Eno, Pere Ubu, Devo) that spouted them, this band’s exceptional songcraft has given this LP a high rate of return and listenability. Soon all the references to classics will fade as this records has all the indicators of a classic in and of itself.


The Chewers - Dead Dads
The Chewers –
Dead Dads (Self Released)

There are weirdos and then there are people trying to be weirdos. These freaks from Nashville couldn’t be normal if they tried and their musical output benefits from this tragic anomaly in that they’ve been able to create a truly unique body of work that allows more adventurous listeners a glimpse into a world that’s more fascinating, frightening, and funny than nearly any other band you’ll hear. Truly unique and truly weird. Read more about it here.


Dan Melchior's Broke Review - Lords of the Manor
Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue –
Lords of the Manor (In The Red)

Dan’s prolific discography of solo records and records with Das Menace have been a steady source of brilliant ramshackle rock n’ roll on par with other masters of the form, like Billy Childish, Jay Reatard or Jon Dwyer. As great as that gravy train has been with multiple releases hitting the vinyl bins year after year, I have to admit that when I heard the Broke Revue moniker was being tossed out for a new record, the first since the band’s last recordings in 2004, I was more than a little amped, being that Oldtime-Futureshock, Heavy Dirt and Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn still sit high on my list of all-time favorites. Lord of the Manor has all the rickety hooks and stomp of those earlier records, but now wraps it in a detached psychedelic swirl that darkly spins off into fractured Chrome solos or relentlessly heads down krautrock. The new Broke Revue is an entirely new beast and one I hope rears its ugly head again sometime soon.


Killing Joke - Pylon
Killing Joke
Pylon 2xLP (Spinefarm)

After 35 years, you might expect the legendary UK postpunk pounders to loose a little steam and/or piss and vinegar, but so far they’ve kept right at it and have continued to make killer records decade after decade. From the masterpiece of their eponymous debut LP through 1983’s percussive Fire Dances, even through their weaker new-wavy late ‘80s records on to the more metallic Pandemonium in 1994 and through the 2000s, there’s been enough trace amounts of their original fire in all their releases to make ‘em worth paying attention to. And this double whopper again shows how malleable their sound can be by pleasing not only lovers of metal, industrial, dub, EDM, punk, and all points in between, but by demonstration how their unique vision has influenced underground music overall. The tracks on Pylon span from drifting hypnotic anthems to bombastic marches, all roaring or at least gurgling with layers of texture and Geordie Walker’s unrivaled minor key guitar swells. Needless to say, Pylon is an epic addition to an already epic discography.


Male Gaze - Gale Maze
Male Gaze
- Gale Maze LP (Castle Face)

Delivering on the promise of their 7”, Gale Maze reels in the noise a wee bit and serves up a cool slab of postpunk built with commanding gothy vocals and thick fuzzy bass-driven songs that channel the frenetic dark energy of Tones on Tail or the coldwave songcraft of Total Control. It’s instantly catchy and will wrap itself deep into the folds of your brain as it also rumbles in your gut. Body music for the brain or brain music for the body?


Mick Futures - Banned from the Future
Mick Futures
Banned from the Future (Telephone Explosion)

Only the Andy Human record earlier this year got as many plays as this surprise treat from Canada’s Mitch Houle. Endlessly listenable pop damage for mutants of all ages, Banned from the Future pulls you in with hooks in the form of synthetically-enhanced punk so catchy that you’ll finally be able to put something new between all those classic Chrome, Devo, and Roxy Music records you’ve spun into oblivion.


Shadow in the Cracks
Shadow in the Cracks
- Shadow in the Cracks (Goner)

What could be seen as a side project of Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake, this 9-song convulsive devotional deserves some credit for discovering a new space in the well travelled garage punk sound continuum. They exist in a plane where tranced out shamanistic krautrock mingles in the open, singular spaces Wire discovered on Pink Flag, while getting scorched by the burning, grizzled fire of Dead Moon. One of the freshest records the garage canon has seen in a long time.


Sleaford Mods - Key Markets
Sleaford Mods
- Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)

If you consider the mountains of halfwit shitass punk bands out there clogging the bins and clubs with formulaic and conventional tripe, you have to wonder how it is that two Brits armed with nothing more than minimal beats and primitive bass lines can lay waste to all of it with 12 cuts of spittin’ working class rage. Key Markets is what the The Fall would’ve sounded like if Mark E. Smith grew up listening to Crass and Wu Tang Clan instead of Can and The Seeds.


The Soupcans - Soft Party
The Soupcans
Soft Party (Telephone Explosion)

Toronto spazzoids The Soupcans are back with 13 hits of Grade A ass-whooping garage punk jolts. Their tantalizing 7” EP, Parasite Brain, from 2013 left a thirst for these lads brand of huh that can finally be quenched, with pleasantly deranged bangers like “Hairicide” and “Razorface”, full of tales about who the fuck knows what. They even put up a splash of quasi black metal blast beats and howls with the punishing track “Murder Parade“ that shows a wild new angle on the Soupcans sound. They’ve managed to both hone their sound and push it even further too. Absolutely as essential as their previous LP.


Ufomammut - Ecate
Ufomammut
Ecate (Neurot)

As the various branches of metal continue to mutate and push into new territory, it’s always rewarding to slog through a few tons of tedious metal clones to find records as remarkable as this monster from Italy’s finest metal trio. The riffs on Ecate are unforgivingly heavy and relentless, textured with mysterious samples, buried vocals, and vicious electronics that pound you into putty while also giving what’s left of your brain a psychedelic treat on a trajectory as convoluted as its retina frying cover art. It’s a sublime sludge stew to fuel 45 minutes of infinite astrological exploration.

Sweet Shops

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Record Store Day 2014

After the 7th year of Record Store Day and reading a few intriguing if not wholly accurate lists from the likes of BuzzfeedLA WeeklyPastePitchfork and Spin, I reminisced about all the music meccas my addiction to noise has led me to over the years and assembled a list of my own. There’s no better way to experience a new city than hunting down what audio treasures it has to offer. Some of these shops I visited decades ago but most are still kickin’ and hopefully as mindblowing now as they were when I first stepped into ‘em. Each shop offered the all-circuits-are-busy overload a kid in a candy store experiences, stocked with so many killer slabs of wax that it required some tough improv decisions to edit my stack down to a (semi) affordable stack of jams. I look forward to some day hitting some other legendary spots like End of an Ear (Austin), Goner (Memphis), Mississippi (Portland),  Other (NYC), Waterloo (Austin) and others I hope you’ll be compelled to share in the comments section. Until then, make note of these sweet shops…

AmoebaSan Francisco, California
I’ve yet to visit Amoeba’s newest store in Hollywood — the world’s largest indie record store — and I can’t fathom how massive that place is. Can’t wait to hit it, but I have sincere concerns about choking in the face of so much vinyl. I’ve nearly had that experience at their S.F. store, where there was so much awesome music at my fingertips that I couldn’t begin to decide where to start. My want list went out the door as I just jumped in and improvised, stumbling across more heavily desired records than I could carry. It is hands down the best place I’ve been in the U.S. for buying records. Sweet finds: the first Red Monkey 7″, Striborg Embittered Darkness, and Fushitsusha Allegorical Misunderstanding.

The Antiquarium (RIP)Omaha, Nebraska
Before moving out of its original location, which shared a 4-story building with a used bookstore, comic book store and art gallery, you’d have to walk past reading groups to descend down the staircase into the record shop. It offered you a quick scan of the ample selection of quality goods that were offered at ridiculously low prices. Most used vinyl was in the $4 range and there were tons of thing you’d see here and no where else. Their last location wasn’t as funky, but it still offered a more than healthy selection of indie punk garage jams, with lots of local product. Sweet finds: the first Box Elders 7″, Halo of Flies Garbage Rock, High Rise 2, For Against Echelons, Whitehouse Great White Death.

Aquarius Records San Francisco, California
If you aren’t on their email newsletter, loaded with contagious fandom for all things weird and outré, do yourself a favor and sign up. Every week you’ll be exposed to dozens of reviews by obsessed audiofreaks with encyclopedic knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm, plus sound samples to back it up. With an eclectic mix of “….indierock, punk, metal (black, doom, sludge and all things in between), reggae, sixties psych, seventies proto-metal, international music, experimental electronic music, hip hop, field recordings, found sounds, country and bluegrass and avant garde music of all types,” this densely packed shop in SF’s Mission District is always worth a visit. Sweet finds and discoveries: Urfaust, F/i reissues, Skull Disco imports, Bohren and Der Club of Gore, the Russkie Wig Out! compilation.

Love GardenLawrence, Kansas
Now celebrating 24 years in this college town about 40 miles west of Kansas City, this Mass Street mecca is always stocked with a heap of great used vinyl, local treasures, and a wide swath of genres to satisfy pretty much any sound craving. While the original second floor location had the charms of a magical stairwell adorned with hundreds of album sleeves and a creaking wood floor, their new street level digs have added character to a shopping district that’s done fairly well defending against the encroachment of corporate retail. Sweet finds: first Slug 7″, Pitchfork CD discography in limited-edition Monkey Army screen print cover, first Unsane LP, Fag Cop 7″s, Helios Creed The Warming 7″, Savage Republic Tragic Figures LP.

Permanent RecordsChicago, Illinois
Like Aquarius, the refined tastes of the PR staff is reflected in a weekly email newsletter that drips with a palpable fervor for weird and wild sounds. Unlike some big shops with loads of less-than-interesting filler, the quality of stock cultivated at this tiny West Town shop is unparalleled, offering a focused degree of browsing that’s highly efficient and highly rewarding. In addition to this shop, they’re now operating a store in LA as well as a super clued-in record label. Sweet scores: Haunted George’s Pile O’ Meat, Bitchin’ Bajas/Moon Duo split 7″, Steel Pole Bath Tub Unlistenable, Cheveu Cheveau.

Record Collector – Iowa City, Iowa
Now at its third location within the handful of blocks that constitute downtown Iowa City, this college town mainstay has outlasted dozens of other shops with a small but well considered stock that reflects a clued-in group of buyers with sharp ears for sharp sounds. The original location that I grew to love was up two flights of stairs lined with flyers and not much bigger than the size of a bedroom, but it was absolutely bursting, stacked floor to ceiling with the detritus of indie punk weirdodom, stocked with a dazzling assortment of zines like Your Flesh, Bananafish, Bad Vibe, You Could Do Worse and more, plus more vinyl and CDs than you could imagine possible is such a small space. Sweet scores: Harry Pussy Zéro De Conduite double 7″, bottledog Hot Dolphin Terror @ Chirpgobble, Los Marauders Every Song We Fuckin’ Know, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 Tangle.

Rotate This Toronto, Ontario
This Queen Street honey hole houses a heap of vinyl with a healthy cross section of any genre worth dropping a few loonies on. With a healthy assortment of stock that’s heavy in the punk and garage department, it’s the place to go if you’re sniffin’ around for all stuff underground Canada. Their used section is bountiful and priced well, so if you’re able to make it there be sure to wear some good shoes and prepare to walk out with a sizable stack of wax. Sweet scores: The World’s Lousy with Ideas Vol. 2, The Intelligence Boredom and Terror, Pink Noise Memory Box.

Singles Going Steady – Seattle, Washington
Specializing in punk, as the Buzzcocks-inspired name implies, this scuzzy jewel of the northwest is a riotous shop crammed with quality jams in 7″, 10″ and 12″ varieties. What’s great about SGS is unlike other shops that specialize in punk that feel more like a t-shirt/lifestyle accessory shop with a few records, this is an actual vinyl junkie utopia with loads and loads of rare vinyl both new and used. As someone fairly well versed in punk, I felt like a noob novice digging deep into the crates here with tons of crusty punk, thrash, doom and grind that was completely foreign to my eyes. It’s a great immersion point going deep into scenes yet to be discovered.
Sweet scores, A Frames 1 & 2, Spits 7″s, Night Kings 7″.

Twist and Shout Denver, Colorado
While it may not live up to the legend of Wax Trax records in it’s heyday, Twist and Shout has become the go-to spot for all things vinyl in the mile high city. Their current space is a healthy sized space on Colfax that houses not only a deep collection of vinyl, but lots of DVDs and other stuff too. A trip to one of their earlier locations was amazingly fruitful, when they had a storefront across the street from the main shop that housed all the vinyl. At the time CDs were still the main business of the day and iPods had just begun turning things digital. While the main shop was hoppin, the vinyl shop had a much more focused feel and an huge amount of wish list material. Sweet scores: Faction Epitaph, Killing Joke Almost Red 12″, Coyote Insides, Destruction Unit Self-Destruction of a Man.

Zulu Records – Vancouver, British Columbia
Zulu retains the feel of an ’80s record shop, harkening to its 1981 opening date and the wide gamut of genres it expertly serves. If you remember digging in ‘import’ sections, where releases and labels that fell outside the main channels of music distribution, Zulu caters to any and everything, well stocked in punk classics as well as bleeding edge experimentalism and electronica. And, not surprisingly, they have a righteous selection of actual UK imports including some rather hard to find stateside electronic plates. Sweet scores: Scorn Plan B, Mick Harris Hednod Sessions.


Other fine shops of note:

Atomic RecordsMilwaukee, Wisconsin (RIP)
Brave New WorldPittsburgh, Pennsylvania (RIP)
Drastic PlasticOmaha, Nebraska
Vintage Vinyl St. Louis, Missouri
Wax TraxDenver, Colorado (RIP)

Best Singles/EPs of 2013

Monday, January 27th, 2014


Cop City / Chill Pillars
- Gift Shop 7″ (Hozac)
The oddball vibe within the grooves of this 45 instantly pull you into a bizarro world where warbling effects-laden guitar and chanted vocals might be considered acceptable entertainment. Living up to the weirdness of their moniker, these wack Floridians continue to amaze.


Endless Bummer
- Ripper Current EP 7″ (In The Red)
Four bare knuckled blasts from the most excellent Permanent Records folks and a Spit. This LA band with the ultimate SoCal name offers up a version of bitter garage punk that’s no fun and fun at the same time, perfectly wrapped up with a funny/not funny cover.


Life Stinks
Shadow on the Wall 7″ (Total Punk)
Stripped down no-frills downer punk with a less-than-positive attitude. Their snarl is evident, yet they don’t give a fuck about getting overly worked up about it. Endlessly inspiring negativity in two parts. Brilliant.


Magic Shadows
- Sunburned Mind 7″ (Magic Shadows)
The wave of punk-infused psychedelia continues. Sex Church, Destruction Unit, Human Eye, etc — there’s no shortage of killer bands swirling loud tranced out guitar around mind expanding riffs. And if that sort of thing is your bag, you gotta check out these Canadians’ echoey barrage of scorching guitar stomp. Read more here.


Optional Body
- Surviving Avalanches 7″ (25 Diamond)
As a huge fan of The VSS and the first few Year Future records, my ears have been craving some Sonny Kay-style jams for a number of years now. This killer pair of songs has his distinct yelp over a wash of doomed postpunk guitar — the ingredients of a classic.


Schonwald
Mercurial 7″ (Hozac)
The second the needle hits this record, a wave of atmospheric synth washes over you — a thrilling mix of ghostly vocals flowing over sustained chillwave and thin beats. A Flock of Seagulls from hell. This Italian duo’s second LP (out soon on Hozac) will be on the must-hear list for 2014.


Scorpion Violente
The Rapist 12″ EP (Teenage Menopause)
Similar to The Dreams, another French duo with repetitive, droning vocals and noise over cheap drum machines, Scorpion Violente ups the menace with minimalist disco dirges that are seedier than a Tijuana back alley at 3am —something like what a Brainbombs dance album might sound like. Their cover of The Sonics’ “Strychnine” on this record is mystifying and fascinating at the same time. Even the sleeve is morbidly unsettling and a brilliantly provocative image for setting a scene.


The Soupcans
– Parasite Brain 7″ EP (Telephone Explosion/JKSHK)
If you aren’t acquainted with Toronto’s Soupcans yet, grab this 6-song EP and prepare to be atomized. Breathing new spastic life into noise punk, their brand of racket is as warped and wild as it gets. If you’ve subjected yourself to last year’s killer Good Feelings record, get ready for more righteous shocks to the system.


Straight Arrows
Never Enough 7″ (Hozac)
A-side drops bigger than life rubbery riffs that pull you in with a surge of buzzsaw guitar, while the B-side rounds out the fun with a catchy garage punk punch to the face. These Aussies have been making big waves stateside and here are two more great reasons why.


Verglas
Excommunion 7″ EP (Found Dead)
Trve to form, the 4 songs of black metal delight on this Montreal band’s vinyl debut are recorded thinly and tinny, but even that slipshod production can’t keep the fury of Veglas from shining through. Mixing the pained shrieks and buzz of standard issue isolationist black metal with the articulation of D-beat hardcore and galloping thrash metal makes this band a pleasantly aggressive anomaly in an oversaturated musical form.